USIS Washington File

15 October 1999

Congressional Report, Friday, October 15, 1999

(Republicans want moratorium on nuclear testing) (920)


Despite the largely party line vote by Senate Republicans October 13
against ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the
consensus among them is that the United States should remain the world
leader with respect to nuclear non-proliferation efforts; a nuclear
test ban treaty can be approved in the future; and the United States
should continue its own moratorium on nuclear testing.

In press releases and public statements, Senate opponents of the
Treaty say that although they voted against the CTBT because they saw
it as flawed, they nonetheless support its non-proliferation goals,
including its moratorium on nuclear testing.

The 100-member Senate late October 13 rejected the Treaty by a vote of
51-48, 19 votes short of the 67 votes needed for ratification. The
final vote closely followed party lines with only four Republicans
voting for it. Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, voted

Senator John Warner, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee,
said "there is no technical urgency" for the United States to resume
nuclear testing.

The Virginia Republican proposed that President Clinton appoint a
bipartisan commission under former Secretary of Defense James
Schlesinger to find a way to make the nuclear test ban treaty
acceptable to the Senate.

Since 1992 the United States has not conducted any nuclear tests,
relying rather on simulated testing under its Stockpile Stewardship
program to ensure the viability of its weapons.

"We should continue our moratorium on testing," said Senator Thad
Cocharan, Republican of Mississippi. "We should use all our skills and
resources in concert with other nations to limit the spread of nuclear

Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, said "the world should know
that this Senate remains committed to preventing the spread of nuclear

The Treaty was not rejected "as a merely political act meant to
embarrass the President," he said. "The CTBT would have harmed our
nation, not helped it, and that alone is why it was defeated," he
said, charging that the Treaty was unverifiable and unenforcable.

Senator Bob Bennett, Republican of Utah, said in the end, the issue
was "whether we should accept this deeply flawed Treaty" or reject it
"determined to get a better product."

Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, who voted against the
Treaty, and Senator Joseph Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, who
voted for it, held a joint press conference October 14 to say that the
Senate rejection of the Treaty does not mean that the goals of the
Treaty have died.

"We have come together today to say to anyone who will listen, to the
American people and hopefully to people around the world, that
although there are not now sufficient votes in the Senate to ratify
this test ban treaty, that does not mean that the cause of nuclear
nonproliferation died on the Senate floor yesterday," Lieberman said.

The campaign to stop the testing of nuclear weapons and deter the
spread of those weapons "we are convinced, is embraced by a great
majority of the American people and, in fact, by their representatives
here in Congress," he said.

Lieberman added that he and his Republican colleague "think it's
important to leave the door open to a return to the Treaty by the
United States Senate, a Treaty that can be passed.

"In working toward that end together, we will reach out to our
colleagues and to the administration to see what changes might be made
to achieve enough support to enable us to ratify a nuclear test ban
treaty in the Senate," he said.

Lieberman acknowledged that this will be difficult and said "it's not
likely to be accomplished quickly. We don't have a deadline or even a
time line in mind now. But we do want to signal to nations around the
world in the aftermath of yesterday's vote that neither the American
people nor the United States Senate are walking away from our
responsibility to lead the effort to reduce the risks to the people of
the world, including the American people, from the spread of nuclear

Senator Hagel said "The question that we must now ask is, where do we
go from here... And Senator Lieberman and I believe there are a lot of
our colleagues who have the same feeling -- want to find some ways to
move this very important issue forward.

"It's important we bring some perspective to this, to understand the
consequences of us not dealing with this," Hagel said.

"And what is most important, is to deal with it again in a responsible
way so that the people of the world have some hope that in fact the
leader of the world, the leader of the nonproliferation effort over
the last 50 years, the United States of America, is not abandoning its

"I don't believe that's what that vote was about yesterday. Certainly
when I voted against that Treaty yesterday, that's not what I had in

"So, whatever Senator Lieberman and I and our other colleagues who
share our same feeling on this can do, we want to do it. It's open to
how and when and where. But we feel that there is enough of an opening
out there to be able to continue to move this forward," Hagel said.

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State.)